PRIMGHAR—The coronavirus pandemic and a recent resignation has stretched the O’Brien County Public Health Office thin, which is why nurse administrator Kim Morran is seeking additional help.
Morran told the county board of supervisors Tuesday, Nov. 10, that Raquel Pick, a part-time, Spanish-language interpreter, announced her resignation the previous week.
“She is willing to stay on through next week and is offering to come in if we need her to train a new person,” Morran said.
Morran told the board how the pandemic is putting additional strain on her office’s workload.
“It’s consuming everything we do, whether it be contact tracing with the schools or the outbreaks at the nursing homes. We get daily reports from the nursing homes that we have to go in,” she said.
Morran also said everyone in her office had COVID-19 at some point this year. During a 10-day period, she was the only person working in the office.
“How do you keep this place staffed and open if people are out ill or need to take vacation or whatever? That makes it more difficult, so that would be another issue,” she said.
Pick’s departure reduces the public-health office’s staff to three people: Morran, public-health nurse Carla Starkenburg and office manager Alma Rodriguez. Morran said Rodriguez is able to assist the office with interpretation services, although that is not a requirement of her job.
Ideally, Morran would like to hire a licensed practical nurse who would assist Rodriguez in the office a few days a week and who also would be able to do nursing duties. She would want them to work 32 hours a week.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of LPNs out there. I think most people go to school and go right through their RN (registered nurse) now. But that’s what I would like to do is run an ad for an LPN or RN and see what I get for people that apply,” Morran said.
She noted how her office’s budget has changed since the start of the year due to the pandemic and the resignations of Pick and other staff members earlier in the year.
“We were probably going to have to come and ask you to amend the budget anyway come spring. We are right on track right now. We’ve used about 30 percent of our budget, so we are doing well and trying our best to stay within that,” Morran said.
If her office hired an RN at $25 per hour for 32 hours a week, Morran estimated it would be an additional $58,000-$60,000 expense. If it hired an LPN, the amount would be smaller. The employee would not have full insurance since they would work part time.
Besides pandemic-related work, Morran’s office provides other health services to the county which require adequate staffing. One service the office has been doing recently is administering influenza vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program as well as through private insurance providers.
“After this week — we’re doing flu clinics at South O’Brien — we will be out of private flu vaccines,” Morran said. “I have purchased 40 more doses from Osceola County, so we have really given a lot of private vaccines. It’s definitely a need and it’s definitely a service that we can provide for the county.”
She also mentioned the need to eventually purchase a miniature deep freezer to store the COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. She estimated the cost for that would be $250-$300.
O’Brien County also contracts with Webster County to help provide some services, such as the I-Smile dental services, maternal child health visits and Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment.
Webster County used to contract with Osceola County, however, Morran said her office agreed to help with Osceola instead.
“If I don’t have the staff, I can’t do that,” she said. “We have how many schools and preschools and stuff in our county alone?”